Wolves have leverage as NBA draft nears

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 22, 2011 - 11:16 AM

Armed with their highest draft pick ever, the Timberwolves nonetheless seem intent on trading the No. 2 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft.

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Arizona's Derrick Williams stretched out.

Photo: Chuck Liddy, MCT

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Armed with their highest draft pick ever, the Timberwolves nonetheless seem intent on trading the No. 2 pick in Thursday night's NBA draft. Their aim?

Big picture: Make a move that, following Tuesday's introduction of Ricky Rubio, further accelerates their rebuilding process.

Examined further: They appear to be trying to leverage that No. 2 pick and the right to take Arizona's Derrick Williams into a young starting center who has some NBA experience and a pick later in the draft, which they'd presumably use to draft a shooting guard, their other position of need.

Here are their options and other story lines that will influence a draft in which Cleveland -- owner of two of the first four picks -- is expected to select Duke guard Kyrie Irving first overall:

CENTER OF ATTENTION

TEAM PLAYER FIRST-ROUND PICK

L.A. Lakers Andrew Bynum None

Comment: Terrific young prospect with an injury-prone body and erratic disposition. He's only 23 but already has played six NBA seasons, even though he's stayed healthy for an entire season only once in those six years.

Milwaukee Andrew Bogut 10th

Comment: Injury-prone but All-Star worthy when healthy. Wolves would do it in a heartbeat despite the risk, but Bucks deny it has ever been discussed and probably wouldn't agree without getting more in return. OK, you can have Pek and Luke Ridnour back, too.

Indiana Roy Hibbert 15th

Comment: Huge (7-3), intriguing talent who has improved tremendously, but Larry Bird says, "We're not doing that." He also said they weren't trading Jermaine O'Neal before the draft years ago and he did.

Washington JaVale McGee Sixth

Comment: Just the kind of freakishly athletic, mobile center they want, but Wizards might not trade him despite a low basketball IQ straight up for the second pick.

Phoenix Marcin Gortat 13th

Comment: Big, physical and 27, but Wolves probably are aiming higher than a serviceable center if they're going trade No. 2.

Golden State Andris Biedrins 11th

Comment: Mobile lefthander whose development has been hindered in part because of injuries. Still young with upside, but Wolves can do better.

New Jersey Brook Lopez None

Comment: Big, gifted offensive center who'd be perfect fit because he wouldn't threaten Love's rebounding pursuits, but Nets have considered him a core piece.

Orlando Dwight Howard None

Comment: Yes, he's due to be a free agent in 2012 and David Kahn did make offers for Carmelo Anthony in the same situation. But, as Steven Tyler sings, dream on ...

Portland Greg Oden 21st

Comment: Former No. 1 overall pick can't get healthy as he heads toward restricted free agency. Great physical specimen, but too many questions.

Other options: They could pursue athletic free agents DeAndre Jordan (restricted) or Tyson Chandler (unrestricted). Clippers claim they will match offers for Jordan, but Donald Sterling certainly has his limits. And Wolves probably would have to vastly overpay Chandler before he'd leave NBA champion Dallas.

FIVE FOR 20

The Wolves also own the 20th overall pick. Here are five players they might consider:

1. Marshon Brooks, Providence senior: They're hoping 6-5 shooting guard who has been rising up draft charts falls to them.

2. Donatas Montiejunas, Bennett-Treviso Italy PF/C: Probably couldn't refuse 7-foot Lithuanian if he falls to them.

3. Bismack Biyombo, Congo PF/C: Little chance the most intriguing athletic talent in this draft falls this far, but they'd likely snap up a fellow who already is becoming something of a folk hero both because of his name and probably unfair comparison to Serge Ibaka.

4. Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech junior: Who? The Wolves need defenders and this 6-6 combo guard has great physical gifts and might be the best perimeter defender in this class.

5. Malcolm Lee, UCLA sophomore: Another 6-5 combo guard, he's projected as a second-round pick. But remember this: Ben Howland's UCLA teams have a way of producing players who are better pros than anybody imagined. Think Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Luc Mbah a Moute.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE ...

Thirty-three years after his father became the only Gophers player drafted No. 1 overall, Washington State guard Klay Thompson, too, is destined to become a first-round pick, possibly as high as No. 11 to Golden State.

Mychal Thompson was a 6-10 center who starred with Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders at Minnesota, then played 12 NBA seasons. Thompson (shown) is a 6-7 shooting guard who has impressed scouts with his shooting and apparently overcome a early March arrest for marijuana possession.

Thompson didn't inherit his father's height or low-post game. And you won't see the puka shells, which Bahamas-born Mychal made fashionable wearing around his neck at Williams Arena long ago.

"I didn't grow up on the islands like he did, so I don't have the island swagger like he did back in the day," said Thompson, who made an unofficial college recruiting visit to Minnesota before choosing Washington State. "I didn't know my dad was really like a legend over there in Minnesota until I went and saw his picture up in their coliseum."

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Irving and Arizona's Williams might be the most notable names this year, but they aren't THE name.

The name is BYU senior guard Jimmer Fredette.

Or just The Jimmer, a player so unique and so recognized that some mothers in Utah reportedly have named their newborn sons after him.

"It's great," he said. "Hopefully the name can spread a bit so it won't be so unique."

Nobody is more polarizing among scouts than The Jimmer, who both amazes with his shooting and deep range that defies defenses and vexes with his average foot speed and indifferent defense.

"Well, he is 'The Jimmer,'" Irving said. "With quotations around it."

He also might be, for all his limitations, completely unguardable in the NBA because of a shot playing in the driveway long ago against his brother, seven years older, and his friends.

"I couldn't really take it to the basket, so I'd shoot it from outside," said Fredette, who's expected to go as soon as No. 7 to Sacramento and no later than 15th to Indiana. "That's what I had to do. I had to get my shot off quick. I learned how to shoot from deep ranges at a young age."

JUST LIKE ... KOBE?

Providence's Brooks has zoomed in short order from second-round consideration to a prospect who has intrigued Milwaukee Bucks executives, owners of the 10th overall pick. He could challenge Colorado's Alec Burks and Washington State's Klay Thompson to become the first shooting guard selected.

He perhaps has done so because of incredibly long arms, huge hands and an assassin's game that reminds his trainer, Tim Grover, and other perhaps just a little bit of a guy named Kobe. (Grover, by the way, once trained Michael Jordan and now trains Kobe Bryant.)

"Honestly, I don't want to say nothing wrong to make Kobe mad," Brooks said when asked about the comparison. "He's somebody I looked up to growing up. I can't lie: When I look at films, I make certain moves, shoot a certain way and leave my leg up. I kind of remind myself of him, just from watching him so much as a young kid.

"You go to the park and you shoot, hold up your follow-through and just say, 'Kobe.'"

IMPRESSED

Turkish center Enes Kanter comes from Istanbul, a city woven from a rich tapestry of history, cultures and commerce where East meets West.

But apparently Istanbul isn't quite as spell-binding and exotic as Minneapolis. His hometown might have the Blue Mosque, but his possible new home has mystical Target Field.

"The city is amazing," he said during his visit to work out for the Wolves. "Last night, they had some game, baseball game or something. It was amazing. Everybody was like crazy."

WHAT'S PLAN B?

Two years after the Wolves drafted four -- count 'em, FOUR! -- point guards in one night, what do they do if Cleveland surprises and takes Arizona's Derrick Williams, leaving Duke point guard Kyrie Irving for a team that just signed Ricky Rubio?

"Figure it out in five minutes," Wolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone said, his tongue firmly in cheek.

Real answer: Draft Irving -- the best asset available -- anyway and trade him, either Thursday night or later.

WE CALL 'EM SKYWAYS ...

So if Duke's Irving (above) doesn't go to Cleveland with the No. 1 overall pick -- as almost everyone expects -- what does he know about the Timberwolves and Minnesota? "I know two things about Minnesota," he said. "No. 1: I know that even if you wear gloves, you're still going to be cold. And No. 2: That they have connecting tubes everywhere. Those are the only things I know." So do those two things really make him want to go? "Honestly, any team I go to I'll be happy with," he said.

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